Another Mumbai-like attack will be big setback: PM to Pakistan

November 12th, 2011 - 11:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh On Board Air India One, Nov 12 (IANS) With a combative opposition accusing him of going soft on 26/11 terror, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said he was “optimistic” about the resumed dialogue with Pakistan, but stressed that if another “barbarous” Mumbai-like terror attack were to happen, it will be a “big setback” to the peace process.

Manmohan Singh underlined that the powerful Pakistani Army was fully on board in carrying forward the resumed peace process and added that his decision to pursue peace with Pakistan was not based on “blind faith in one individual”.

“I come back with the expectation that the second round of resumed dialogue which will begin very shortly, will have the advantage of a more informed dialogue,” Manmohan Singh told reporters on board his special aircraft while returning from the SAARC summit in the Maldives.

“What will be the outcome of that dialogue, I am optimistic, but India-Pakistan relations are subject to accident, and therefore we both recognise that if there is another incident like the Mumbai terror attack, that would be a big setback to the process of normalisation,” the prime minister said.

“I think that is fully understood by Prime Minister Gilani,” stressed Manmohan Singh, who looked and confident about his latest peace gambit with Pakistan.”I did discuss with Prime Minister Gilani whether the Pakistani Army is fully on board to carry forward with the peace process,” he said.

“The sense I got was that after a long time, Pakistan’s armed forces are fully on board,” he said.

The prime minister’s clarification came two days after he held wide-ranging talks with Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit and amid the Bharatiya Janata Party’s accusation that he has gone soft on terror emanating from Pakistan, barely days before the third anniversary of the 26/11 attack.

Putting the focus on justice for the 26/11 victims, a subject he discussed with Gilani, Manohan Singh said he conveyed to him that “those who perpetrated the barbarous attack must be brought to justice”.

“I left Prime Minister Gilani in no doubt that if public opinion in India is not satisfied that justice is being done to those responsible to the barbarous attack, it won’t be possible to move forward with the peace process,” said Manmohan Singh.

“I told him (Gilani) that terror as an instrument of state policy has no takers in the world and it has given rise to Pakistani terrorism. Terror has to be dealt with firmly,” he said.

Manmohan Singh also stressed that he has accepted Gilani’s invitation to visit Pakistan, but stressed that he will go when Islamabad takes “solid” steps against the Mumbai terror accused.

Striking an upbeat note, the two leaders had vowed to write a new chapter in sub-continental relations and hoped that the next round of the dialogue will be more constructive and result-oriented.

Manmohan Singh, however, took positive note of “encouraging developments in the area of trade, Pakistan giving India Most Favoured Nation status and Islamabad’s willingness to discuss all matters including that of terrorism.”

“In these areas (trade and terror), it is possible to find the way forward,” he said when asked in what areas he expected forward movement in the days to come.

“Trade and economic relationship is one area where progress is possible.

“The thinking people in Pakistan realize that trade is a win-win situation,” he said. During their talks Thursday, the two sides had decided to move towards a preferential trade agreement to accelerate economic ties.

Reacting to criticism back home about his describing Gilani as a man of peace, Manmohan Singh said: “I have met Prime Minister Gilani four-five times. He agreed with me that there is no way but to find a peaceful resolution to all outstanding issues.”

“I, therefore, believe that Pakistan has a democratic government and we will like to strengthen the hands of the civilian government,” he said “In Gilani, we have a prime minister who we can work with,” he said.

However, Manmohan Singh pointed out that his decision to resume the peace process with Pakistan was not individual-centric.

“Our approach to Pakistan is trust but verify. We are not putting blind faith in one individual. I do hope it will genuinely lead to the normalization of relations,” he said.

“If our government gets solid evidence that terror is continuing (from Pakistan), it will be a negative factor. If trade relations move positively, it will be a positive factor,” Manmohan Singh said.

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